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Arm Ukraine now or face war on NATO territory, warns Khodorkovsky


If NATO does not seize its historic opportunity to stop Vladimir Putin in its tracks, it will have to face war on its own territory, longtime Kremlin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky told Euronews.

“Today, NATO has a great opportunity to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty by participating in this war with weapons, supplies and training Ukrainian soldiers, rather than fighting on its own territories,” Khodorkovsky told Shona Murray during the Global Conversation. “If this opportunity is missed, I issue a warning: in a few years, or perhaps even sooner, NATO will be directly involved in this war, because it will be fought on the territory of a NATO country. “

Oligarch Khodorkovsky was once Russia’s richest man, before falling foul of Putin and spending ten years in prison for tax evasion, embezzlement and fraud. He now lives in exile.

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Shona Murray: For much of your life, you knew Vladimir Putin well. What do you think he’s thinking right now and how far can he go with this war?

Mikhail Khodorkovsky: What I observe today from him is a mixture of pragmatism, that is to say the desire to consolidate his electoral rating and an emotional reaction – I mean a sort of paranoid fear of what is happening in the neighboring country, fear of democratic transformation, of the independence that Ukraine has gained.

SM: But at the same time we saw their incursion in 2008, their takeover of Crimea in 2014. Do you believe that they are now separated from this war or the war is now on, as you said, because of COVID and other issues? Is that what you say?

MK: Putin solved his electoral problems with war four times during his presidency. The first time was in 1999. So it was 2008, 2014, and now 2022. The isolation of COVID helped him form the idea that Ukraine would not resist, that he would not would meet with no organized resistance, that certain towns might perhaps encourage it with flowers!

Putin’s “gangster” mentality

SM: It’s Putin’s failure, you say. But is this also the failure of the West? Given what we’ve seen about Vladimir Putin over the past two decades, we’ve seen him try to take over Crimea, his meddling in Syria, and so on. Was the West naïve about what Putin would end up doing?

MK: The leaders of the main European countries still believe that it is possible to agree on something with Putin without showing him their strength, that is, to be in a position of weakness, from Putin’s point of view. And that’s a dramatic mistake, because they’re not talking to a leader who looks like them. No, they’re talking to a gangster. And any gangster who thinks he is in a strong position and who is asked for concessions will actually try to finish off his victim.

SM: So what is the solution for you? Obviously, I think at this point Emmanuel Macron and others may be learning not to try to negotiate with Putin. What would you suggest they do to end this situation?

MK: You know, just recently, probably a month ago, I was surprised by Mr. Borrell. He is a European civil servant and I did not expect harsh words from him. But he said the right thing – this conflict will not be resolved at the negotiating table, but on the battlefield. Later, of course, there will be negotiations and in the end the war will be stopped by negotiations. But the very first solution is going to be on the battlefield. There is no alternative!

SM: And what does that include? Does this mean that NATO is officially or formally involved in Ukraine? Do you think this is the only solution here? Otherwise, the war will continue or expand. What do you think?

MK: Today, NATO has a great opportunity to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty by participating in this war with arms, supplies and training Ukrainian soldiers, rather than fighting on its own territories. If this opportunity is missed, I issue a warning: in a few years, or perhaps even sooner, NATO will be directly involved in this war, because it will be fought on the territory of a NATO country. Those who believe that you can somehow come to an agreement with an abuser repeat the mistakes of their many predecessors. Tens of millions of Europeans have already paid for these mistakes with their lives some 70 years ago.

Sanctions cannot stop aggression

SM: How would you assess the situation in terms of NATO’s performance? How have NATO member states behaved? We have often seen quarrels in Germany over German weapons originally destined for Ukraine. Do you think efforts need to be stepped up significantly or are we on the right track in terms of military support to Ukraine?

MK: I am convinced that the sanctions could have mattered in 2014. Now the sanctions cannot stop the aggression, although they can weaken the regime so that this aggression does not happen again for a while. But now the problem is solved on the battlefield. If NATO wants the problem to be solved on the territory of Ukraine, then, of course, it must provide much more systematic support. It makes me laugh to hear certain officials say: if we give Ukraine five, ten or twenty additional guns, it will be able to go and fight on Russian territory! What are you talking about? Today, the artillery capacity of Putin’s army exceeds that of Ukraine by 20 times! 20 times! Putin’s aerial dominance is total.

Rebuilding Russia after Putin

SM: Just one last question, you have already said that this war will lead to the death of Vladimir Putin. And the war itself affected you personally because of your family history in Ukraine – your grandmother, your childhood. If we see the end of Vladimir Putin’s administration, do you see yourself returning to Russia as part of political reconstruction, as a political figure?

MK: I am not a politician by nature. I have always loved doing business. And after prison, where I spent 10 years, I prefer… I’m more interested in social activities. I don’t believe that Russia should have this figure of czar, who is intrinsically looking for an external enemy. It is very important that post-Putin Russia becomes a federal state and builds a functioning parliament that would represent the interests of Russian regions. If at this stage they need my support as a manager, an administrator with relevant managerial experience, of course I will try to help my country. If the younger generation can handle that, I will be very happy.

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